Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007While the idea of wet nursing has been in the news recently, there's also been a lot of talk about "casual sharing." What's casual sharing? Basically, it's when one mom provides breast milk for another mom without having gone through official screening and processing like you'd have with a milk bank. Sometimes it's between two moms that know each other, sometimes it's between complete strangers.
It's happening every day. People just don't talk about it.
So I'm going to.
I confess, I'm a "casual sharer." Yeah, I'm also an actual screened and processed milk donor for my local HMBANA bank, but this go round, I've also dabbled in the arena of casual sharing.
The idea first entered my mind shortly after I weaned myself from the pump with Elnora. I'd stopped pumping in early December and got to talking with a friend of mine in January. She'd had a c-section that previous October and ended up exclusively pumping after some nursing difficulties. She was putting forth a valiant effort, but it just wasn't working out. She, like many moms, simply couldn't get enough milk from the pump.
So I offered to re lactate to help her out. (I have no idea what I was thinking at the time...I'd just given the pump up, I didn't REALLY want to pump again, but I did want to help.) To be honest, I think I freaked her out. (Ok, to be honest, I kinda freaked myself out.) We never mentioned it again and she switched to formula a few weeks later.
Fast forward to early December of this past year. A dear friend ended up with an emergency c-section at 34 weeks due to a previa. She'd gone from a planned home birth to a difficult surgery in which she lost a lot of blood. It was a difficult recovery for her, not to mention the baby spending a few days in the NICU. She was bound and determined to breastfeed, but the baby just wasn't strong enough yet to fully nurse. So she found herself trapped in the nurse/pump/supplement cycle.
Her milk took awhile to come in...not uncommon with a c-section, tons of IV fluids and the severe blood loss.
Supplementing was a must.
We'd briefly discussed the situation before her surgery. She'd been hospitalized at 31 weeks for a previa bleed and we went over the options as far as donor milk if the baby required an extensive NICU stay. As it turns out, the hospital she was having the baby in does not allow donor milk. (They're not very pumping friendly either, but that's another rant.) We talked about sneaking in my milk if she ended up coming home before the baby but didn't yet have enough of a supply. Basically, she was going to get breast milk in this kid one way or another and I was happy to do what I could to help.
As it turns out, the baby came home the same day she did, but it seemed like the baby would constantly increase her intake faster than my friend could increase her output. So I offered to pump. They accepted. Out came my Medela PISA.
For about a week, I took over 10 ounces a day. By the second week, it was about 10-12 ounces every other day. By the third week, they were hardly touching the extra stash I'd provided. By the end of the third week, it was all gold and they didn't need my milk anymore.
I cooked a few meals for them those first few weeks. It seemed funny to drop off a meal for them and to know that I was actually helping to feed the WHOLE family. ;) I was happy to do it though and I know she would have done the same for me.
Now, I want to make two very, VERY important point here.
First...I would NOT suggest this as a good course of action in all circumstances. I'm a screened milk donor for a HMBANA bank. The screening process is stringent. I've had blood work done, my milk has been tested, we KNOW that my milk is 100% safe. In this instance, it went beyond my friend simply taking milk from someone she trusted. We could look at this and know that the only difference between me dropping off the milk and her getting it from a milk bank was that it wouldn't be pasteurized. Otherwise, it was the exact same milk.
Second...our midwife (we used the same one) learned that we were sharing milk (she already knew that I was a donor and a milk banking activist) and thought the idea was wonderful. She actually ended up calling me twice about other client she'd had that had problems getting the milk in. In one case, the mother was 12 days out and still had no milk. She wondered if I'd mind donating some for the mom to use with an SNS. The other time it was a mom that had had twins and that simply wasn't keeping up with their supply needs quite yet.
Both times I said yes, but both times the parents decided to go with formula instead.
I think they made a good choice.
Formula is NOT the devil. It's not evil, it won't kill your child. Yes, in the cases of premature babies in the NICU, donor milk can mean the difference between life or death, but in these instances, the HMBANA milk banks are the place to turn. For healthy full term infants, formula is an acceptable (not equal, but acceptable) alternative. There ARE real risks associated with formula, but none of them are so severe that I'd advocate taking milk from strangers without some major precautions in place.
What do I mean by precautions?
Well, IF you were to insist on taking milk from someone that wasn't a family member or close friend that you had the absolute utmost trust in, I'd recommend doing the following.
1.) Begin your screening by asking the questions used in pre-screening by the HMBANA banks. (I'll try to dig this up and post it in the next week or two)
2.) Pay to have blood screening done. I believe the lab fees on this are around $150 or so.
3.) Consider buying a home pasteurizer. They run $200-$400 and will process small batches of milk.
To be honest, as much of a Lactivist as I am, I'd use formula before I'd take milk from a stranger. But if I was going to take stranger's milk, I wouldn't do so without following those three steps.
How about you? Anyone out there want to own up to casual sharing? Would you share with a friend or family member? Would you take milk from a friend or family member? How about sharing with or taking from a stranger?